While many peoples’ minds immediately jump to eating one of Philadelphia’s delicious cheesesteaks, there is in fact another way to enjoy what this beautiful city has to offer: by kayaking! A day spent kayaking in Philadelphia covers both urban paddling with views of the Philadelphia skyline and waterways that are surrounded by lush trees and forests. Best of all, most of your adventures kayaking in Philadelphia are free of entrance fees (and rentals can be found at very affordable rates).

With so many awesome places to choose from, picking the best places to kayak in and around Philadelphia can be challenging. Below is our complete guide to the most scenic places to kayak in Philadelphia. From quiet creeks to Class II rapids, any outdoor lover must experience paddling around Philadelphia!

Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Philadelphia

Kayaking in Philadelphia is an amazing way to explore the city's natural beauty and get outdoors!
Kayaking in Philadelphia is a great way to explore the city’s natural beauty and get outdoors! Photo Credit: David Clow (Flickr CC)

Schuylkill Banks

This 8 mile stretch of river runs straight through the heart of Philidelphia. For an urban kayaking experience that still features beautiful scenery, head out to Schuylkill Banks!

Beginning at Walnut Street Dock, paddlers can launch their boats and cruise down calm waters. Industrial views and the Philadelphia skyline dominate the backdrop when first paddling, but it becomes more lush with greenery as you continue on. Schuylkill Banks’ convenient location and calm waters make it a great spot for beginners or those looking to get in a quick paddle this summer.

Kayaking in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River truly brings an urban setting outdoors. Bonus- you can kayak in the late-afternoon and get back in time for a free movie screening on Schuylkill Banks (with free snacks)!

You can launch your own boat from Walnut Street Dock or Fairmont Water Works for free. Or, on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, Hidden River Outfitters offers tours of the river with exclusive river routes.

How to Get There: If driving, head towards S 25th St from Lombard st. This will take you to Locust point, where you can park your car and head down to the riverbank. If not driving, the Market Frankford Line of SEPTA Regional Rail will take you here.

Wissahickon Creek

With over 50 miles of rugged terrain trails and free-flowing streams, kayaking in Wissahickon Valley Park is not your average flat water experience.

Located within the park, Wissahickon Creek is 7 miles in total and ranges in depth and rapids. Kayaking here is a complete escape from busy downtown Philadelphia. Dense forests and wildflowers make Wissahickon Creek a beautiful outdoor oasis. While paddling along the rocky tree-lines shores, make sure to look out for shallow areas!

Visitors also enjoy touring historic sites in the park like Philadelphia’s last standing covered bridge and the Valley Green Inn. Between the park’s beautiful natural landscape and history, kayaking Wissahickon Creek is perfect for any age and ability.

The Philadelphia Canoe Club is an active paddling community that offers canoe, kayak, and white water rafting trips down Wissahickon Creek. Besides renting gear, joining this great community of outdoor enthusiasts is a wonderful place to meet others with a shared love for kayaking in Philadelphia.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-76 W and take exit 331B toward Plymouth Mtg. Then, head toward State Route 3005 until the creek. If not driving, there is transit from 30th Street Station that drops you 0.5 miles from the creek.

Glistening waters of Core Creek Park invites cancers and kayakers for a paddle!
The pond at Core Creek Park is a beautiful place for kayaking in Philadelphia this Summer! Photo Credit: Chris Ronin (Flickr CC)

Cedar Creek

An ecological masterpiece, paddling along Cedar Creek showcases the unique beauty of cedar forests, bogs, marshes and more!

From the minute you arrive you’ll notice how special kayaking on Cedar Creek really is. Its unique tea-colored water is a result of the cedar tree roots of forests that line the shores. Cedar Creek itself is best suited for paddlers with some experience; there is a current that definitely aids you in paddling if going downstream.

Paddling Cedar Creek can be a full weekend trip; luxury campgrounds sit on the shores ready for you after you are done kayaking. Between the cranberry bogs adjacent to the creek and marshes that host diverse wildlife, Cedar Creek must be on your kayaking list this summer.

Cedar Creek Campground rents out campgrounds and canoe/kayak gear. They will even drop it off where you wish to begin your trip! Or, feel free to launch your own boat at the docks near the swimming area.

How to Get There: If driving, start on US-30 E and take the ramp to NJ–70 E. Turn right onto Warren Grove Whiting Rd and continue through Lacey Rd until a right turn onto Atlantic City Blvd. Turn right onto Harbor Inn Rd. Driving is the best way to get here! If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

Kayaking in Philadelphia can have an urban setting ion the Schuylkill Banks- an easy way to get outdoors!
Kayaking along Schuylkill Banks gives the best skyline views and an urban feel. Photo Credit: Montgomery County Planning (Flickr CC)

Marsh Creek State Park

Marsh Creek Lake is your classic flat water lake with beautiful tree-lined coasts and sandy beaches. With blue skies and calm waters, Marsh Creek Lake is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon kayaking in Philadelphia.

Besides the gorgeous scenery, Marsh Creek Lake is known for their Night Tours. Offered every other Friday, seasoned tour guides provide vibrant glow sticks to help you navigate around the lake and experience it under the stars!

If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, Marsh Creek Lake is a perfect place to start. In addition to kayak and paddle board rentals, Marsh Creek Lake also has lessons and can host parties. Rentals are available at West Launch Boat Rentals. Or, feel free to launch your own boat too!

How to Get There: If driving, take I-76 W toward Harrisburg, then take PA-100 N to Park Rd. Turn left and continue to the lake. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA Paoli/Thorndale Line to Downington.

Penn’s Landing

Located near Spruce Street Harbor Park and the Hilton Penn’s Landing, kayaking Penn’s Landing is certain to be a unique way to see the city! You can kayak, paddleboat, or even rent rowboats to explore the Delaware River’s beachfront.

Kayaking Penn’s Landing is a great outdoor activity for kids and families living in Philadelphia. The Penn’s Landing paddle area is in a safe harbor where you are free to paddle and float to your heart’s content. Since Penn’s Landing recently added kayaking to its waterfront, it is in high demand. Kayaking here is best suited for kids and those looking to see some of Philadelphia’s history (not a long, scenic paddle).

Paddling at Penn’s Landing is sponsored by Independence Seaport Museum. The museum’s Workshop on the Water offers outdoors classes and rents kayaks. If you already have a boat, feel free to explore the harbor on your own!

How to Get There: If driving, head east on Chestnut St. over the freeway to get to Penn’s Landing on the Delaware river. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA MFL Line toward Frankfort to 2nd Station which is near Penn’s Landing.

Sailboats, boats, canoes, and kayaks take the water at Nockamixon State Park! Visitors enjoy paddling around the tree-lined coasts.
There are numerous ways to enjoy the waters of Nockamixon State Park! Photo Credit: (FlickrCC)

Nockamixon State Park

Nockamixon State Park may be one of the most treasured places in Pennsylvania. Close enough for a day trip, kayaking in Philadelphia’s Nockamixon State Park is absolutely breathtaking come Spring, Summer, or Fall.

With over 1,000 acres of waterfront property, you can do some serious kayaking on Nockamixon Lake. Full of fish, this is the perfect spot for fishing and taking a luxurious paddle along the forested coastline.

Dedicated to outdoor education and environmental conservation, Nockamixon State Park has tons of classes for people of all ages looking to learn more about nature and the park itself during your visit.

In total, the lake has six public launch sites, but Three Mile Run and Haycock launch ramps are best suited for kayaks and canoes. If not launching your own boat, feel free to rent gear from Nockamixon Boat Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take N Broad St north and turn left onto Fort Washington Expy. Then, turn right onto Hilltown Pike and continue onto Blooming Glen Rd/Minsi Trail. Continue on PA-313 W, and then turn right and take PA-563 N to the park. If not driving, there is a bus once daily to Quakertown by Fullington Railways. Or, you can rent a car from Avis.

Core Creek Park

The small lake located in Core Creek Park is the perfect way to ease into kayaking this Summer. Between the flat water, hiking and picnic areas, you’ll never want to leave!

Core Creek Park’s waterfront access to Lake Luxembourg makes the transition from land to water super easy. A leisurely paddle around the lake doesn’t take too long, and is a great place to work on your paddle skills.

More experienced paddlers love Core Creek Park’s Moonlight Paddle Tours which explores the lake under the stars. Whether you are a newbie looking for a quiet place to practice or a seasoned paddle looking to kayak in a new environment, Lake Luxembourg can do it all.

You can launch your own boat or you can rent kayaks at the park from Core Creek Boat Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-95 N toward Trenton, then take exit 3 towards US-1 Business N and turn left onto Woodbourne Rd. Continue here to the park. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA West Trenton Line to Langhorne (Core Creek Park).

Kayaking down the Delaware River is a great outdoor activity for the whole family! Kayaking in Philadelphia is a must-do activity this summer!
Kayaking down the Delaware River is a great activity for the whole family! Photo Credit: Stephen Harris (Flickr CC)

Delaware River

Separating Pennsylvania from New Jersey, the Delaware River is a diverse flat water river with excellent wildlife and campgrounds along the way.

Accessing this beautiful natural waterway is super easy- there are put-ins along routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. Once on the water, paddlers of all abilities can cruise down long stretches of the river and make camp along the way.

Kayaking along the Delaware River is a great choice for kayakers looking for long stretches of uninterrupted water and trips that can last up to a few days. While paddling, you may even spot wild turkeys, bears, and elk!

Bonus: Besides canoeing and kayaking, the Delaware River has the perfect conditions for tubing. Floating down the river on a sunny day is like having your own lazy river. Twin River Tubing has everything you need to make your journey awesome.

You can launch your own boat at any of the access points along the highway for free. Or, you can rent from Adventure Sports. Spots like the Delaware River make kayaking in Philadelphia an absolute epic time!

How to Get There: If driving, put-ins are located along highway routes 80, 84, 6, 206, 209 and 521. The best way to access the water is through these sites. If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

Darby Creek

  • Location: Southeastern Philadelphia
  • Rentals Available: Yes- at Ridley Marina

A small place with huge opportunities, Darby Creek is home to scenic water trails and some of the most treasured historical landmarks in Pennsylvania.

Darby Creek is a wonderful place for all abilities. The creek itself is great for beginners and its larger tributaries provide more challenging water for intermediate paddlers. Flowing in and out of the Delaware River, Darby Creek is a peaceful spot for kayak enthusiasts to gather and explore Philadelphia’s natural beauty.

After a day of paddling through lush forests, visitors can tour the Swedish Cabin built in the 1650s and the Blue Bell Inn, built in the 1760s. Members of the Darby Creek Watershed work hard to preserve these pieces of American history for visitors to enjoy. Darby Creek also runs through John Heinz Wildlife Refuge– the first wildlife refuge established in America!

Clearly, there is no shortage of places to explore around Darby Creek. You can launch your own boat at the watershed. Or, you can rent gear from the Ridley Marina located next to the park.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-95 S, then take exit 8 onto Stewart Ave and turn right. Turn right again on Chester Pike and finally, turn right onto S Swarthmore ave and continue to the creek. If not driving, you can take the SEPTA Line 11 Tram to Darby Creek Transportation Center.

The scenic Batsto River is a wonderful place to challenge your kayak skills in NJ.
Batsto River in Wharton State Forest is a scenic and challenging paddle! Photo Credit: Hammonton Photography (Flickr CC)

Brandywine River

Brandywine River Valley is a beautiful landscape with sloping hills and gorgeous greenery. The meandering river’s gentle flow makes it a wonderful spot for first-time paddlers and large groups.

Wilderness Canoe Trips is the prime outfitter for canoeing and kayaking down the Brandywine River. They have courses for 1.5, 6, and 12 mile paddles, and will help you get started on your water adventure (not a guided tour).

Visitors also love coming to Brandywine for its American history. In addition to some of the most scenic kayaking in PA, paddlers can watch Civil War Reenactments and tour the town’s historical landmarks.

Although it is a bit far from downtown Philadelphia, kayaking down Brandywine River is the ideal paddle experience. With beautiful nature on all sides, this can be the peaceful escape you were looking for. You can launch your own boat from the Wilderness Canoe Trips waterfront access and rent gear from them too.

How to Get There: If driving, start on I-95 S and take exit 8 for Rte 202 N. Immediately take the next exit onto Powder Mill Rd heading west. Then, take the next left onto W Park Dr and turn immediately right onto Rockland Rd. This road will take you all the way up onto Brandywine Creek State Park. The best way to get here is by car. If you need to rent a car, check out Avis.

Wharton State Forest

The Batsto River located in Wharton State Forest is an awesome place to go canoeing and kayaking near Philadelphia. Open glades and forests surround the river, which also has an abundance of wildlife.

There are tons of guided tours for the Batsto River, but if you want to explore on your own, almost every tour launches from Quaker Bridge. From there, the river has many sections. As you paddle, you will go through narrow, twisted streams, swamps, ponds, and finally end up at at Batsto Lake.

Due to the rugged terrain and flux in water, kayaking the Batsto River is best suited for intermediate and experienced paddlers. Paddlers really looking for an outback experience should camp at Lower Forge Campground. It is notorious for its “primitive” setting. Remember to bring your own water!

Like mentioned above, you can launch your own boat from Quaker Bridge or Hampton Furnance. Or, take a guided tour and rent gear from Mick’s Canoe & Kayak Rental.

How to Get There: If driving, take I-676 S and continue south on the Atlantic City Expy. Take exit 28 and turn left on 12th St. Then, turn right onto Central Ave and continue onto Pleasant Mills Rd (NJ 542). This road will take you to nearby Batsto Village. Driving is the best way to get here. If you need to rent a car, Avis has you covered.

A kayak floats down one of the many rivers in  PA- kayaking in Philadelphia is always a beautiful and exciting outdoor activity!
Kayaking in Philadelphia is a wonderful way to explore the great outdoors! Photo Credit: Jim Mullhaupt (Flickr CC)

Additional Resources

What to Pack for Kayaking in Philadelphia

  • Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
  • Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses and croakies to keep them from falling off.
  • Hat: It’s best to keep the sun of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
  • Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip with these cool water bottles.
  • Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray in the boat with ou to ward off any pests and sunburns.

For a more complete packing list, check out our ultimate kayaking packing list to help you prepare for all of your outdoor kayak adventures. These essentials will make your time kayaking and canoeing in Charlotte an unforgettable experience!

Related Links to Kayaking in Philadelphia

Known for its massive Stampede and its proximity to the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is a beautiful city that’s perfect for outdoor lovers. Hiking in Calgary is a fantastic (and cheap!) way to enjoy nature in and around the city. Within a few hours’ drive, you can have access to stunning mountaintops, flower-filled meadows, desert-like canyonlands, and evergreen forests. No matter what kind of trail you’re looking for, you can find a place to go hiking near Calgary that will take your breath away! We wrote this guide with 17 of the most beautiful hikes in and near Calgary for all levels – beginners to advanced enthusiasts – so you can plan your next adventure!

Easy Hikes Near Calgary

Bow River Pathway & Prince Island

  • Trail Distance: Up to 48 kilometers total (5 kilometer loop near Prince Island)
  • Location: Downtown Calgary

While there are several short urban hikes in Calgary, our favorite trail by far is the Bow River Pathway. Running for a total of 48 kilometers along the Bow River through the heart of the city, this is one of the most popular trails for running, biking, and hiking in Calgary. With mostly paved, flat trails, this trail is accessible for all levels of hikers.

As you stroll, you can see people fishing or kayaking in the Bow River, epic skyline views of the city, and you’ll even pass by Calgary’s famous bright red Peace Bridge. We’d highly recommend the Prince Island area of the Bow River Pathway if you want a nice blend of nature and city elements along your hike.

Photo Credit: necopunch (Flickr CC)

Grassi Lakes

  • Trail Distance: 4.3 kilometers
  • Location: Canmore, AB (Trailhead GPS: 51.08105, -115.39472)

Located in nearby Canmore, Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular easy hikes near Calgary and is a scenic, fun choice for hikers of all levels. While the trail does include an ascent, which is gradual and involves some stair climbing, the rewards at the top are excellent. You’ll see beautiful views of Ha Ling Peak, as well as the deep turquoise lakes below. If you’re looking for a wonderful, family-friendly spot for hiking (that isn’t too far off the beaten path), Grassi Lakes is a short and fantastic option.

Grotto Canyon

  • Trail Distance: 4 kilometers
  • Location: Grotto Mountain Provincial Recreation Area

As another one of the more well-known hikes near Calgary, the Grotto Canyon trail is a short, easy hike that takes you through huge rock structures and canyon areas. Here, local rock climbers can often be found scaling the vertical rock faces. After you’ve wandered past the rock climbers, you’ll hike through a boulder-filled trail and end at a waterfall, which makes for a really nice picnic spot or a scenic place to take a rest.

Photo Credit: Sabrina Setaro (Flickr CC)

Horseshoe Canyon

  • Trail Distance: 2.9 kilometers
  • Location: Kneehill County (Trailhead GPS: 51.41554, -112.88567)

At less than 1.5 hours from Calgary, Horseshoe Canyon may be one of the most unique spots for hiking near Calgary. With striated rock formations and plateaus, this strange landscape is located near the Canadian Badland. Instead of the common alpine landscapes of the nearby Canadian Rockies, you’ll find a much drier, desert-like landscape at Horseshoe Canyon. Pair a morning hike here with a trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park for a wonderful outdoor getaway near Calgary!

Troll Falls

  • Trail Distance: 3.4 kilometers
  • Location: Kananaskis County, AB (Trailhead GPS: 50.9364, -115.14133)

Known for being a fantastic family-friendly option, Troll Falls is located just over an hour from Calgary and is a great waterfall hike for all levels, including children. It’s just 3.4 kilometers, meaning you can pair it with other hikes in the Kananaskis area or simply take your time along the way. With dirt paths through the forest that lead hikers to a towering waterfall, it’s a nice, short, accessible option for hiking near Calgary. If you choose to hike in the winter, don’t forget to wear microspikes for safety!

Photo Credit: L F (Flickr CC)

Johnston Canyon

  • Trail Distance: 5 kilometers
  • Location: Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular hikes near Calgary, and it’s easy to see why. Waterfalls meet narrow stone gorges with a raging turquoise river in this beautiful and easy cliffside trail, which is perfect for solo hikers, couples and families of all hiking levels. This Banff hike is unique because it consists of a series of cliffside metal bridges that take you through this stunning canyon…no uphills necessary!

There are a few different options for this hike, including a short version that takes hikers right up to the Lower Falls (the first set of falls), or the longer version that extends all the way through the Upper Falls to the “Ink Pots,” a colorful phenomenon that occurs in these natural pools in Banff National Park. If you want to avoid the crowds (and yes, this trail does get crowded), be sure to get started hiking early in the morning.

Ha Ling Peak glows in the distance. Photo Credit: Darren Tennant (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes Near Calgary

Ha Ling Peak

  • Trail Distance: 8 kilometers
  • Location: Canmore, AB

Open year-round, Ha Ling Peak is arguably one of the popular and most picturesque moderate hikes near Calgary. It’s on the shorter end of the hikes in Canmore, at 8 kilometers out and back. But don’t let Ha Ling Peak’s distance fool you – the hike is actually decently challenging, as you’ll ascend well over 800 meters one way in about 4 kilometers.

The peak itself rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of the Bow Valley below, as well as nearby East End of Rundle and Lady MacDonald peaks. As this trail is among the most popular day hikes near Calgary, we’d recommend starting very early to find parking and beat the crowds (plus catch the early morning alpenglow on the mountains!).

Photo Credit: Terry Lawson (Flickr CC)

Ptarmigan Cirque

  • Trail Distance: 4.3 kilometers
  • Location: Kananaskis County, AB

For gorgeous mountain views in a glacier-carved cirque, the Ptarmigan Cirque trail is a fantastic, moderate trail for hiking near Calgary. Beloved by locals, this trail is fairly short, but has a lot of variety to offer along its gradual slopes. You’ll pass by jaw-dropping views of the surrounding peaks, tiny waterfalls in the rocks, and lots of beautiful wooded areas. This trail is especially beautiful in the fall, when the larches turn orange and bright yellow amidst the blue backdrop of the mountains.

Photo Credit: nucksfan604 (Flickr CC)

Plain of Six Glaciers

  • Trail Distance: 15 kilometers
  • Location: Banff National Park (Park at Lake Louise)

As one of the most popular trails for hiking in Banff National Park, the longer, more difficult (and arguably more beautiful) sister of the Lake Agnes Tea House hike is the Plain of Six Glaciers trail. Rocky, winding dirt trails take hikers from the crowded shores of Lake Louise into secluded getaways deep in the Rocky Mountains. In our opinion, this is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in Banff National Park, and we’d recommend doing this one if you’ve got limited time in the park.

Visitors can expect to see beautiful, towering glaciers, craggy mountain peaks, and scenic passes through the wilderness. In the summer, hikers can stop for a quick rest at the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house, where they serve hot beverages and snacks for passers-by.

But before descending back down the way you came, be sure to stop by Abbots Pass for some of the most jaw-dropping views in the park.

How to get there: Park in the Lake Louise parking lot, pass the Chateau Lake Louise, and take the trail head that begins to the right of the lake at the edge of the forest. Once you are there, you will see signs to the Plain of Six Glaciers hike (it’s the same one as the Lake Agnes Trail).

Hoo Doo Trail

  • Trail Distance: 3.5 kilometers
  • Location: Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park

Try not to get too confused: there are several hikes in Alberta called the Hoo Doo Trail, but the one we’re talking about is in Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. With 3.5 kilometers of pathways through the strange, eerie “hoodoo” rock formations of the park, you’ll see why this trail is one of the most notable hikes in Calgary and the surrounding areas. The drier terrain in this area of Alberta is a welcome change to the otherwise evergreen, alpine scenery farther north.

Photo Credit: mark goble (Flickr CC)

East End of Rundle (EEOR)

  • Trail Distance: 5.6 kilometers
  • Location: Canmore, AB

One of our personal favorite hikes near Calagary is East End of Rundle, lovingly called EEOR by locals. This moderate to difficult hike isn’t for the faint of heart – while it’s not too technical, you’ll certainly need to use your hands and do some scrambling to reach the summit, especially once you’ve cleared the tree line. However, along the way, you’ll see beautiful views of the Bow Valley, nearby Ha Ling Peak, and the surrounding mountains.

Note that there are a few false trails that stray away from the main area – be sure to take note of your surroundings and make sure you follow the same pathway down from the top of the mountain as you did when you ascended.

Resting on a rock after completing the chain course on the Mount Yamnuska Trail

Difficult Hikes Near Calgary

Mount Yamnuska

  • Trail Distance: 11 kilometers
  • Location: Bow Valley Provincial Park

By far, Mount Yamnuska is one of our favorite adrenaline-pumping, muscle-throbbing hikes in Calgary and the surrounding areas. Known as the “gateway to the Canadian Rockies,” this 11-kilometer trail takes you through an evergreen forest, up a steep rocky scramble, around a chain cliffhanger (seriously), and up to the summit of this iconic Canmore peak. It’s a whopping 900+ meters of elevation gain, so be ready for some SERIOUS uphills and downhills if you choose to tackle this one.

Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass

  • Trail Distance: 17.5 kilometers
  • Location: Banff National Park

One of the most incredible day hikes near Calgary, Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass is a challenging but memorable hike to tackle. Located in Banff National Park, his full-day hike brings you to some of the best landscapes in the park, including many peaceful, secluded lakes, and panoramic views of the park.

Although this is the longest challenging hike on our list, it’s well worth the effort for a full day of adventuring through alpine trails and forests.

Throughout the hike, you might see some wildlife, including little chubby marmots (that we thought were adorable!). You’ll pass through Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Lake, both perfect places for a snack or a break. You also have the option of summiting Mount Bourgeau, although it is definitely a difficult scramble!

Photo Credit: Andres Alvarado (Flickr CC)

Mount Lady MacDonald

  • Trail Distance: 9.9 kilometers
  • Location: Canmore, AB

The Mount Lady MacDonald hike, named after the wife of the first Prime Minister of Canada, is a challenging trail that has breathtaking views start to finish. We definitely would not recommend this hike for beginners, but experienced hikers will absolutely have a blast. You’ll walk through evergreen forests, past a heli-pad, and all the way up to the rocky, scree-filled summit. Be prepared for some wind! We’d strongly recommend trekking poles for this one, as there are a lot of difficult ascents where they could come in handy.

Smutwood Peak

  • Trail Distance: 17.9 kilometers
  • Location: Kananaskis County

Easily one of the most beautiful summit views near Calgary, Smutwood Peak’s trail isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll hike, you’ll scramble, and you’ll gawk and the stunning, stunning views of the ridge and the alpine lakes and valleys below. Definitely not for the faint of heart, this long but vastly beautiful trail is best for experienced hikers who have already summited other peaks in the area. This hike is best to do in the summer or fall, when the snow has mostly melted.

Additional Resources for Hiking in Calgary

What to Pack for Hikes in Calgary

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links

San Antonio is known most famously for its bustling Riverwalk, the historic Alamo, and the surrounding missions that play an important part in Texas history. However, there are a surprising number of beautiful nature and outdoor spaces that you can explore by hiking in San Antonio. The Texas Hill Country is a wonderful playground for people who love the outdoors, especially if you enjoy the variety of desert-type landscapes, forests, and slowing waterways side by side. We created this guide to the best hikes in and near San Antonio to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!

Easy Hikes in San Antonio

The San Antonio Riverwalk

  • Trail Distance: 15 miles
  • Location: Downtown San Antonio

Among San Antonio’s most famous landmarks is the San Antonio Riverwalk, which extends 15 miles down the San Antonio River. Some of the Riverwalk is quite commercialized, with lots of shops, street performers, and boats. However, most people don’t know if you escape the main stretches of the Riverwalk, you can find some really beautiful parts of the city.

One of our favorite sections of the Riverwalk is called Mission Reach, which extends through some of the historic Catholic missions in the area that date back over 250 years. Alternatively, for families or people who enjoy learning, the Museum Reach features a scenic trail near many of the city’s museums, including the San Antonio Zoo, the Art Museum, and the Witte Museum.

Photo Credit: mlhradio (Flickr CC)

Cibolo Nature Center

  • Trail Distance: Up to 3 miles
  • Location: Boerne, TX

When you arrive there, you may not think that Cibolo Nature Center fits in with the rest of the Hill Country scenery. That’s because the park features several ecosystems that all look completely different: prairie, forests, marsh areas, and savanna. You can literally explore all four of these sections in one day, along the various trails that span over 3 miles in length. For easy and education hiking near San Antonio, Cibolo Nature Center is a great choice.

Rio Medina Trail

  • Trail Distance: Up to 12.6 miles out and back
  • Location: Medina River Natural Area

South of San Antonio, you can find the Rio Medina Trail, a beautiful running, biking, and hiking trail that runs alongside a river of the same name. Lots of people come here to get away from the hectic areas of downtown and the Riverwalk, for a bit more peace and quiet. With lots of trees and shade, many local outdoor enthusiasts enjoy coming to this trail for a scenic stroll or a bike ride. There are even a few historic sites scattered around the trail that you can view, including a skeleton of an abandoned barn. Scenic, spooky, and shady, this is a great place for hiking in San Antonio for any level of hiker.

Photo Credit: Marcus Calderon (Flickr CC)

McKinney Falls State Park

  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Location: McKinney Falls State Park

If you’re looking for a spot to go hiking in San Antonio and the surrounding areas that takes you away from the city and into a more serene environment, McKinney Falls State Park is a fabulous option. Beloved by locals for its scenic waterways and tree-lined pathways, the Homestead Trail is a fantastic starting point that’s accessible to all levels. This 3.1 mile trail takes you past waterfalls, swimming areas, and rocky outcroppings that are very picturesque. Note that there’s a $6 state park fee to enter the park area.

Photo Credit: Kelly Bollinger (Flickr CC)

Moderate & Difficult Hikes in San Antonio

Barton Creek Greenbelt

  • Distance: 13.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
  • Location: Zilker Park area

As one of the most popular places for hiking in San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country, Barton Creek Greenbelt is a local favorite for a stroll through a naturally beautiful part of the city. Here, you can find lovely waterfront views, waterfalls, and colorful wildflowers during the warmer months of the year.

The trails are mostly shaded, so it’s a perfect year-round hike that will make you feel like you’re in the countryside (even though it’s just minutes away from downtown). It’s also dog-friendly so your favorite pooch can explore too! Unfortunately, sometimes the creek dries up, but the trail is still quite beautiful nonetheless.

Pro tip: On warm days, bring a swimsuit and end your hike with a dip in Barton Springs Pool.

Tower Loop

  • Trail Distance: 2.6 miles
  • Location: Comanche Lookout Park (Northeast San Antonio)

As one of the more popular hikes in San Antonio, the Tower Loop is a fun, short hike that is accessible to all levels of hikers willing to do some hiking across different kinds of terrain and rolling hills. The trail culminates in an abandoned historic tower, which was built in 1948 when the builder passed away. Today, what’s left is the stone structure and the scenic land surrounding it – perfect for photo opportunities or to admire this spooky tower.

Photo Credit: sbmeaper1 (Flickr CC)

Enchanted Rock Loop Trail

  • Trail Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Location: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock is a huge, rounded rock formation that springs up seemingly out of nowhere amidst flatter plains outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. Known for being locals’ favorite recreational areas, Enchanted Rock Loop Trail is an unforgettable spot for hiking near San Antonio.

This 5.4-mile trail takes you to the top of the rock and around the park area, where there are lots of offshoots to see spectacular views of the surrounding countryside or scramble up some of the giant boulders in the area. Note that there is a fee to enter the park, and if you’d like to go during peak season or on weekends, reservations are required.

Bandera Creek Trail

  • Trail Distance: 6.4 miles
  • Location: Hill Country State Natural Area

While it’s a bit of a mouthful, the Wilderness, Ice Cream, Spring Hill, Bandera Creek Trail (we’ll call it the Bandera Creek Trail for short) is a beautiful, 6.4-mile stretch through the Texas Hill Country. This long, moderately difficult trail boasts very scenic views of the area’s rolling hills, with plenty of uphill and downhill stretches to challenge you. Locals love that much of the trail is shady, plus the epic views you can see from the tops of the hills.

Photo Credit: satanoid (Flickr CC)

Pedernales Falls State Park

  • Trail Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Location: Johnston City

For another waterfall-esque hike that boasts beautiful views, the Pedernales Falls Loop trail is definitely worth the day trip. Situated in a hilly, rocky area, the teal blue waters and colorful wildflowers of the Pedernales Falls area are highlights of this trail. You can also take another short (0.6 mile) hike to the falls themselves, where you can climb around the rocks and explore. As this is one of the longer hikes in San Antonio, it’s a great spot for a half-day adventure with family, friends, or your dog.

Crystal Cave Trail & Bridges Trail

  • Trail Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Location: Garner State Park

Although it’s a short hike, Crystal Cave Trail is one of the best hikes in San Antonio take you through classic Hill Country and allow you to explore a small cave. This hike is moderately challenging, despite its short length. The cave is located on a rocky hill, and is a small little nook that you can head into.

The real highlight of the trail lies at the top of Painted Rock Overlook, where you can catch the most beautiful hill country sunsets near San Antonio. Be prepared for a steep climb and bring good shoes with lots of traction. The path down Bridges Trail is gentler and should make for an easier descent than your uphill trek. You can see lots of wildlife and flowers in the springtime and summer.

Photo Credit: Patti (Flickr CC)

Prairie, Painted Bunting, Barred Owl, and Live Oak Trails

  • Trail Distance: 5.1 miles
  • Location: Guadalupe River State Park

Guadalupe River State Park is located just 45 minutes driving north of San Antonio. It offers a peaceful retreat into the colorful Texas hill country. During autumn, the leaves light up many brilliant different shades of colors. The Prairie, Painted Bunting, Barred Owl, and Live Oak trails are aptly named as they take you through a diverse ecosystem of open fields and oak forests. It’s common to see giant lizards, armadillos, and snakes on this trail. Although it’s a little bit longer, this trail is mostly flat but can be difficult if done in the middle of the summer.

Inks Lake State Park

  • Trail Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Location: Burnet, TX

Inks Lake State Park is a serene state park area with a glassy lake surrounded by large boulders and rock formations. The 4.4-mile loop trail around the park is a great place for hiking near San Antonio if you want to escape the crowds of Enchanted Rock or other popular hikes on this list. With trails spanning from wide, smooth terrain to narrow, rocky passages, this trail offers an accessible challenge to hikers of all levels. While the trail is quite pretty, it’s fairly exposed, so be sure to bring sun protective gear – a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen – if you plan on tackling this scenic trail.

Photo Credit: Randall Chancellor (Flickr CC)

Pace Bend Park Trail

  • Trail Distance: 11.6 miles
  • Location: Pace Bend Park

If you are looking for a longer hike, head over to Pace Bend Park. This 11 mile hiking trail is a favorite for hiking in San Antonio and Austin, and will take you through wooded, gravel paths inside a sharp bend of the Colorado River. Bring a swimsuit! Hikers can take the trek through the main trail of the park and afterwards dive into the Colorado River from the rocky cliffs. The trail itself is mostly shaded and won’t afford you many views of the river, but you can take a short detour and camp on the cliffs overlooking the river.

Tinaja and Dogleg Canyon Loop

  • Trail Distance: 6.4 miles
  • Location: Colorado Bend State Park

Although it’s further away from San Antonio, Colorado Bend State Park is a gorgeous 5,000 acre park located in prime Texas hill country. Tinaja and Dogleg Canyon Loop is a challenging trail that’ll take you up and down rocky hills overlooking the Colorado River. You’ll hike down near the river and get breathtaking views of the water. Along the path you’ll also see the entrance to Gorman Cave, but it’s unfortunately closed to the public. Armadillos are frequent visitors on the trail so get your phones and cameras ready. This is a great hike near San Antonio that offers lots of solitude.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

  • Trail Distance: 4.4 to 7 miles
  • Location: Lost Maples State Natural Area

Texans often complain about the lack of fall colors in the state, but Lost Maples State Natural Area is a notable exception. This beautiful area, filled with towering maple trees, blazes red and orange in the fall, and is filled with spectacular rock formations. It’s also home to two incredibly stunning trails – the East Loop and the West Loop. Both loop trails are rated as moderate, and bring hikers past large canyons, still lakes, and more. This magical state park area is a hidden gem, and while it’s 2 hours from San Antonio, it’s definitely worth the drive for an autumn day trip or weekend getaway.

Additional Resources for Hiking in San Antonio

What to Pack for Hiking in San Antonio

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

Related Links

Let’s face it, we’re in a bit of a bind right now when it comes to truly getting outdoors like our outdoor souls are used to. State and national parks are closed, government warnings to stay indoors are plastered all over the place…and yet, with each passing day, you’re craving fresh air and a day of exploring more and more. (At least, I know I am…) Moreover, the media is pummeling us with foreboding messages about quarantine and staying inside, and it seems like our ability to go on true outdoor adventures is screeching to a halt.

Trust me, I get it. Being inside when your heart belongs in the wild frankly sucks. Being stuck indoors when spring is finally here and it’s hiking primetime is literally making my soul cry. But we’re just trying to survive as a species, here.

Given that there’s really not much we can do to help the current situation than by following the rules of social distancing, this means a lot of us intrepid outdoorsy people will be stuck indoors, trying everything we can to maintain our sense of wonder and adventure. While it surely won’t make up for that big trip to Yellowstone or the overnight backpacking trip you were planning nearby, I hope these suggestions help you bring some of your favorite things about the outdoors into your own home.

Psst…read all the way to the end of this post for an EPIC Giveaway we’re doing to help you explore the urban outdoors (without leaving the comfort of your own home).

1. Pitch Your Tent Indoors (and Sleep In It)

If you’re itching to go backpacking but are sad you can’t plan a trip yet, I’d strongly recommend pulling out all your camping gear and setting up your home as its own makeshift “campsite.” Pitch your tent, blow up your sleeping mat, unroll your sleeping bag, and get ready to have your own indoor camping trip.

This idea might sound stupid, but it worked wonders for our mental happiness and rekindled a lot of fond memories outdoors in the wild. Plus, it made me feel like a total carefree child again in a world where there’s a lot to be worried about.

If you need some outdoor gear for your indoor camping trip (and for future outdoor ones), head to REI.com to check out their awesome gear. They’ve got a fantastic return policy, meaning you can try out your gear and decide if you like it before you commit.

While setting up your campsite indoors is a great way to start, there are a lot of other things you can do to further enhance and enjoy your “outdoors indoors” experience, like…

2. Turn on a Campfire Video and Sing Songs to It

There are tons of videos on YouTube like this one where you can play a campfire video for hours at a time, and it even comes with crackling sounds for an added realistic effect. Sure, it’s not a real campfire, but there is a silver lining: you don’t actually have to light it (anyone who has gone camping and has unsuccessfully tried to light a fire knows what I’m talking about). For an even more realistic effect, you can buy a campfire scented candle, campfire marshmallow essential oils, or a campfire air freshener to really seal the deal.

One of my personal favorite camping activities is strumming on my ukulele and singing songs into the night around the fire. This is an experience you can absolutely replicate at home! Even if you don’t have any musical instruments, turn on your favorite mountain or camping-themed songs and jam out, by yourself or with roommates/family. It’s fun, I promise.

3. Open Your Blinds and Windows

This might seem like a minuscule change, but the fresh air blowing into your home will make a HUGE difference. If you’ve been self isolating for several weeks (like we have), you’ve probably grown tired of your home’s recycled air without even knowing it! By opening your windows to let some new air in and closing your eyes, it will feel like you’re outdoors even when you’re sitting on your couch (or in your tent).

4. Meditate to Outdoor Sounds

You may not know it, but many outdoor activities are meditation in their own way. Whether you’re wandering through the woods, listening to your feet crunch under you or you’re closing your eyes and listening to the birds in the morning from your tent, mindfulness and meditation go hand-in-hand with outdoor adventures.

My favorite meditation app, Calm, offers dozens of fantastic guided meditations that come along with some wonderful background nature noises, like running water, birds, rain, ocean waves, and more.

Meditation itself has helped me tremendously with the anxiety and fear I’ve been feeling during this outbreak. I try to do a guided meditation every single day, but if that’s not your thing, you can simply open the app to listen to the different outdoor sounds they have pre-programmed.

Listening to nature sounds in your own home is a way to remain mindful and immerse yourself in nature in a way that’s second only to hearing the actual noises in the wild. For now, this will do, right?

5. Grow Some Indoor Plants

One of the best things about being out in nature, in my opinion, is being surrounded by lush vegetation and colors around every corner. While you can’t exactly grow a forest in your home, you can start cultivating a collection of indoor plants. In my house, I have 12, and it makes me happy every day to catch glimpses of green, yellow, and pink leaves all over the place.

Your local plant store may be closed right now, but they often sell plants at grocery stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Alternatively, if you want something a little more tropical or aesthetic, consider ordering plants from a boutique online provider like Bloomscape. In my opinion, though, the best way to cultivate a garden is by growing your plants from seeds.

While you can buy all your supplies separately, I’d recommend getting a gardening kit for first-timers! There are tons of different gardening kits available online for those wanting to give it a try.

Additionally, you can sometimes put your produce waste to good use by replanting seeds or roots and growing them from your own home. There’s a great book, No-Waste Kitchen Gardening by Katie Elzer-Peters, that will tell you all about how to plant your used vegetables to grow your own food indoors. That’s pretty cool, huh? You’ll get your hands dirty AND create less waste – a win/win for outdoor lovers in my book.

6. Explore through Online Outdoor Photography

Photos are one of the most special ways to capture the beauty of places and the fabulous memories of adventures past. And, if you haven’t noticed, there are some extremely talented photographers out there who share their photos of their adventures FOR FREE to the outside world. It’s so easy to get lost flipping through photographs of the most beautiful places on Earth. I couldn’t probably do it all day every day.

Instagram is a great place to start. Some of my personal favorite outdoor Instagram accounts include: Jimmy Chin, Chris Burkard, Elizabeth Gadd, Tiffany Nguyen, Hello Emilie, and Lost With Purpose. Other wonderful sources of outdoor photography include National Geographic YourShot and Photo Contest Archives, 500px, and Flickr.

Alternatively, if you take your own photos, you can take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of your own adventures by flipping through photos on your computer or in an album. You’ll feel so excited as you’re reliving your favorite hikes, excursions, and adventures…trust me.

7. Make Some Nature-Inspired Arts and Crafts

Just because you can’t actually be out in nature doesn’t mean you can’t use natural elements to make beautiful artwork for your home! From flower presses to wreaths to candles, potpourri, and woodworks, there are a TON of things you can make from items gathered outdoors (or in your local flower shop). The Organic Artist is a wonderful guide to creating your own paper, paint, and other handy crafts completely from natural elements. I’m definitely going to be using this guide with alllllll this free time I have now.

For those who are less artistically-inclined, coloring books are a fantastic way to relieve stress and get in the zone – I recommend the National Parks Coloring Book for those of you dreaming about visiting (and don’t forget the colored pencils, too!).

8. Watch Epic Movies or Videos of Incredible Places

If you’re stuck indoors, in your tent, bored out of your mind but unable to go hiking or biking or paddling, the next best way to feel a sense of adventure is by watching an outdoor-themed movie. The best movies are those that can completely transport you to another place and make you feel like you’re part of the adventure. While there are hundreds of outdoor-themed movies to immerse you in an adventure, here are a few of my personal favorites:

Alternatively, you can get on YouTube and explore hours of outdoor videos from every corner of the world, like this 7-hour drone video or this video of the most beautiful places in the world.

9. Investigate Conservation Organizations to Contribute To

Earth day is coming up! While we’re all crossing our fingers that we won’t be stuck inside by then, do your part and research some Mother-Nature-friendly causes to help. It can be difficult to figure out where your hard-earned money and time should go to, especially given the number of charitable organizations out there. Take the time you’re spending indoors to do the research on something that will help the outdoors, letting you and others enjoy it for generations to come.

Here’s a few of our favorite organizations:

If you want to make it even easier on yourself, or if you don’t have the cash to spend right now, there’s an easier option. Amazon Smile allows you to shop the entire amazon catalogue with your same amazon profile, but for every purchase you make, the company will donate 0.5% of the price of your order to an organization you choose. Over time this can really add up into a large quantity, and the best part about it is that you don’t even have to think about it!

10. Call a Friend and Plan an Adventure

With the rise of video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, it’s now easier than ever to have a virtual hangout with your friends. Take advantage of your next virtual hangout session to call up your favorite travel buddies and plan your next adventure together. As the warmer months draw closer, it’ll be the perfect time to go on a long hike when the quarantine lifts. Dreaming about adventures is most fun when shared with friends!

If you’re looking for inspiration, you can head over to some of our awesome guides to learn more about outdoor activities in your city, or use some of these fabulous resources:

  • US National Parks System – For the national parks vacation of a lifetime, the National Parks System website has a ton of great resources and information that you will need to plan.
  • Epic Hikes of the World (Lonely Planet) – This book has some of the most amazing multi-day treks around the world. Pick one (or more) and start dreaming.
  • New York Times 52 Places to Visit in 2020 – I love awaiting this list every new year, because it gives me so much excitement about new places, as well as nostalgia for places I’ve already visited and explored.

11. Exercise to Prepare for Said Adventure

Whether you do stair climbs in your apartment complex, calisthenic workouts in your living room, or yoga in a quiet spot, getting some exercise in is a great way to burn off some steam and make sure you’re physically in shape when the outdoors is available to explore again. While you can definitely do the workouts that jive with you the most, here are a few I really like:

  • Sweat by Kayla Itsines – This paid workout largely requires equipment you can find in your own home, like chairs and small weights (I use large bottles or cans). The programs offer 3 strength workouts weekly, plus cardio (low intensity and high intensity) each week.
  • BIG Power Yoga at Home – Put on my my favorite yoga studio in the entire world, their online classes will kick your a$$ while also leaving you in a blissful, meditative state. Show up, get on your mat, and deepen your practice with their Powerful Flow classes, which they offer several times daily.
  • HIIT at Home – For those who prefer HIIT style workouts, here are 10 that you can do from the comfort of your own home.
  • Calisthenics – Calisthenic workouts are circuits you do using only your body weight. Believe it or not, when done correctly, you can get REALLY strong and build a lot of muscle this way.

12. Read Epic Outdoor Books

Reading is yet another way to escape your living room for a bit and be transported out into the beautiful, spectacular world. Whether you’re reading memoirs or fictional stories, books about the outdoors can help you follow along on some of the most epic adventures in the world.

Here are a couple of our top outdoor book recommendations:

You can also find tons of other book recommendations on Amazon Books or on Barnes and Noble’s website. If you don’t want to wait for shipping, Barnes and Noble has this great Curbside Pick Up program where you can order online and pick up a book at your local store. Win!

13. Eat Camping/Hiking Food

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been subsisting mainly on things you have lying around in your house already (helllloooo, pasta and ramen). As you know, food is one of the best ways to bring back fond memories, and outdoor adventure food is no exception. Stock up on your trail favorites, like trail mix, dried fruits, Clif bars, Snickers, and whatever else you enjoy eating while on the trails or paddling the river.

For cooked camping concoctions, the New Camp Cookbook provides a lot of camping-friendly recipes that will definitely remind you of nights in the wild. While the recipes definitely lean gourmet, they can be made with mostly non-perishables and produce, meaning you probably already have these items in your home or can easily get them via delivery or in your local grocery store.

14. Practice Leave No Trace

Just like you would on the trails, lakes, and rivers, practicing a Leave No Trace mindset doesn’t stop when you’re not on an adventure. You can take these principles home with you and reduce your environmental footprint by reducing the amount of waste and disposable items that you use at home. This could mean buying more produce and avoiding putting it in plastic bags. It could be prioritizing paper, metal, or glass packaging over plastic. Or, it could mean challenging yourself to have waste-free days, where you do not throw away anything that’s not biodegradable.

You could also go a step further and upcycle or reuse your disposable items, like turning old soda bottles/cans into gardening pots or using glass jars as flower vases. There are so many ways your can continue to minimize your waste and your carbon footprint while stuck at home, and this will help preserve and revive the beautiful nature that exists in the world. For more reading on a zero-waste lifestyle, check out 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg.

15. Support Your Favorite Outdoor Businesses

Travel, outdoor, and recreation businesses are facing a harsh reality during this pandemic, and it’s incredibly difficult for small businesses to stay afloat. Many of the restrictions are preventing people from taking long outdoor trips or traveling to new places, meaning that many online publishers, tour operators, gear outfitters, clothing/gear brands, and exercise studios are really struggling right now. There are tons of ways you can help these folks (myself and Skyline Adventurer included!) keep their businesses afloat during these difficult times, including:

  • Reading lots of travel articles on your favorite websites – Online media businesses like Skyline Adventurer make a significant portion of revenue from advertising, and we can earn money when people simply read and spend time on our websites. If you like what you see on our site (or on any other blog/publisher on the web), visit their websites often, read their guides, and consider purchasing from their gear recommendations.
  • Signing up for email newsletters from your favorite businesses – Another great way to help out small outdoor businesses is to sign up for their email updates. This way, you’ll know when things are open back up or if they’re having an online sale, AKA the perfect excuse to buy that new pair of hiking boots you’ve been eyeing. You can sign up for the Skyline Adventurer email list here, and we’ll send you lots of outdoor inspiration and the best guides for you.
  • Following businesses on social media – Same thing here, but following your favorite businesses on social media can help you stay updated on their latest offers, and also helps them perform better in social media algorithms so their messages will get shown to more people. Want extra credit? Share some of your favorite posts with your friends and family! You can follow Skyline on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.
  • Leaving positive reviews – If you love a particular outdoor shop, tour company, rental kiosk, or nature center, consider leaving reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. When times are good, many customers rely on these reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. If you really believe in a company and want to help them thrive, this is an easy and small task to do that makes a huge impact.
  • Buying gift cards, making advance bookings, or purchasing products online – Many people who run small businesses rely exclusively on the revenue generated from their customers to survive – both as a business and as individuals. If you have the means, consider purchasing a gift card or making an advance booking with one or more of your favorite local businesses. Or, alternatively, buy a product you need online from businesses that are still able to fulfill eCommerce orders. Every purchase, no matter how small, helps these businesses survive, and your support will help them see through these tough times to much better (and sunnier) days.

My friend Amanda from A Dangerous Business wrote a fantastic article with even more recommendations for how to support businesses in the travel/recreation industry during these extremely difficult times. Plus, you’ll hopefully get some new gear and some future trips planned out of it too!

Or…Actually Go Outdoors (Safely)

Look, I’m just as frustrated as you are that we have to stay indoors for so long, under such strict provisions. However, we have to in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Moreover, there has been ZERO explicit advice by any US authority that prohibits people from going outdoors at all. The government permits going outdoors for essential activities. You can still walk your dog, go for a run, wander through new neighborhoods, or even take a stroll through empty pathways in urban parks that remain open.

Just DO NOT FORGET to follow the recommended precautions, including:

  • Don’t leave your house if you feel sick or are exhibiting any symptoms of cough, sore throat, fever, or respiratory issues
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from any other person you do not live with
  • Avoid touching public surfaces and your face
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as frequently as possible (yes, regular soap works)
  • Follow local guidelines and avoid any parks or areas of the city that have been closed

You can find the complete list of recommendations from the CDC here. Stay safe, stay vigilant, but most importantly, stay hopeful. We’ll be out of this and back exploring the outdoors in due time, and we’ll hopefully appreciate the sunshine even more this time around.

Don’t Worry, I Didn’t Forget About the Giveaway…

Skyline Adventurer is giving away a virtual outdoor book bundle to help you stay sane and inspired (and maybe learn a few things) during these difficult times. We’ll be giving away all 5 of the below books from our article to a lucky outdoor-loving winner in Kindle version (valid for the app or on a physical Kindle):

  • The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley
  • 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg
  • Epic Hikes of the World by Lonely Planet
  • The New Camp Cookbook by Linda Ly
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Entering the giveaway is super easy: simply submit your email below and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to enter!

The giveaway entry period ends on April 12, so go ahead and get those entries in! (One entry per person – we WILL be checking for duplicates!)

Related Articles on Skyline Adventurer

Charlotte, NC may not be known for being the most outdoorsy city in the US, but there are a surprising number of fantastic parks and trails nearby. With the Appalachian Mountains nearby and several forests, rocky peaks, and lakes to explore, Charlotte is a totally underrated city for outdoor activities. Hiking near Charlotte is a fantastic, affordable, and accessible way to explore all of the beautiful nature that the area has to offer. We created this guide to the best hikes near Charlotte to help you plan your next outdoor adventure!

Photo Credit: ITRE Institute for Transportation (Flickr CC)

Easy Hikes Near Charlotte, NC

Little Sugar Creek Greenway

  • Trail Length: 5.6+ miles
  • Location: South Charlotte (trailhead near Tyvola Road)

With paved, flat trails that run through some lovely green spaces, the Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a fantastic spot for hikers of all levels to take a nice, leisurely walk in the city. This multi-purpose trail running, biking, and hiking in Charlotte, NC is a local favorite, and is perfect for families or dog owners wanting a no-frills, easy walking path. Because it is an urban trail, don’t expect to feel like you’re out in the wilderness, but you will get to see some nice views of the creek and the surrounding forest along the trail.

Latta Nature Preserve Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.4 miles
  • Location: West of Huntersville, NC (~30 minutes north of Charlotte)

Located right next to the historic Latta Plantation, the Latta Nature Preserve Trail provides Charlotte hikers of all levels with a bit more immersion in nature than a typical city trail. It’s a great spot for hiking near Charlotte if you don’t want to travel too far but still want a nice, accessible trail through the forest. With its proximity to Mountain Island Lake, Latta Nature Preserve offers serene lake views along gravel paths that roll with gentle inclines and descents. Locals really enjoy this trail, but warn that it can get muddy after periods of rain. Check this website before you go for the latest trail status.

Photo Credit: Douglas Johnson (Flickr CC)

US National Whitewater Center

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Near Catawba Heights (western Charlotte)

While the US National Whitewater Center is best known for organizing whitewater rafting lessons, excursions, and competitions, there are a handful of lovely, easy hiking trails in the area as well. The trails here have a lot of variety, ranging from the powerful man-made river rapids to some more peaceful lakes and forests a bit farther out. The trails here are well-maintained and are largely accessible to families and beginners (though we’d recommend avoiding a visit right after heavy rains, as the trails can get very muddy).

Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center

  • Trail Length: 3.1 miles
  • Location: Northeast Charlotte off of Grier Road

For a fantastic family-friendly hiking option, the Reedy Creek Park and Nature Center Trail is one of the best spots for hiking near Charlotte. This paved path is easy to navigate and brings hikers to some very beautiful scenery, including small creeks, a peaceful lake, and some old stone ruins. Because it’s located in a city park, there are also lots of recreational facilities, including picnic areas, sports fields, and more. Locals note that this is a really interesting trail, especially because of the rock house ruins you can explore, but that it can sometimes be hard to follow. You can download a map here to stay on track.

Photo Credit: Chris Steude (Flickr CC)

Greenway Bridges and Lake Loop

  • Trail Length: 4.2 miles
  • Location: Anne Springs Close Greenway

As one of the most spectacular easy hikes near Charlotte, the Greenway Bridges and Lake Loop is a beautiful blend of history and nature. Located in the Anne Springs Close Greenway, the trail is mostly flat and accessible to hikers of all levels. Along the 4.2 mile trail, you’ll pass under a large, historic bridge, cross narrow suspension bridges, and enjoy the thick forests and nature areas located in the park. If you’re a beginner and are only going to tackle one easy hike in Charlotte, we’d strongly recommend this one for the most variety and picturesque views.

Photo Credit: Thomas Cizauskas (Flickr CC)

Moderate Hikes Near Charlotte

Stone Mountain

  • Trail Length: 4.5 miles
  • Location: Stone Mountain State Park

Looking for a bit more of a challenge and a mountain to summit? As one of the coolest and most unique hikes near Charlotte, Stone Mountain is a wonderful hiking challenge for all levels with some stunning rewards. The trails wind through the forest, across bridges and up stairs, with a finale at the rocky summit of Stone Mountain. With smooth rock faces that are striped with different shades of gray, the summit boasts breathtaking views of the cerulean Blue Ridge Mountains nearby. While it’s definitely not an easy trail, we’d still recommend this one for hikers of all levels!

Cove, Cedar Ridge, Creekside and Chestnut Trail

  • Trail Length: 4 miles
  • Location: McDowell Nature Center (~30 minutes southwest of Charlotte)

If you’re looking for a bit more peace and solitude than some of the more popular trails on our list, head to the McDowell Nature Center for a hike along the Cove, Cedar Ridge, Creekside, and Chestnut Trail. This moderate trail is mostly wooded, but also features a lake, a few bridges and boardwalks, and some eerie ancient tree stumps that have stories of their own. While this trail doesn’t have many sweeping views or rocky outcroppings, it’s common here to have the entire trail to yourself, making it a perfect escape from the city. For hiking near Charlotte without any stress, this trail is a great option.

Photo Credit: M Fletcher (Flickr CC)

Lake Shore Trail

  • Trail Length: 5.7 miles
  • Location: Lake Norman State Park (~45 minutes north of Charlotte)

Water lovers will enjoy the 5.7-mile Lake Shore Trail in Lake Norman State Park, which spans the perimeter of a small peninsula. The jagged edges of the land near the water create a lot of variety along the lakefront, which offers stunning views of the forest reflecting into the still waters (especially in the fall!). While the trail can get popular in peak season, there’s a lot of space and small secluded areas to get your peace and quiet and enjoy the company of the lake and the surrounding trees.

Uwharrie Trail

  • Trail Length: 8.4 miles
  • Location: Uwharrie National Forest

The Uwharrie Trail is a 20-mile trail that stretches through the Uwharrie National Forest. While you have the option to hike the whole thing, you can also do just a section or two. If you do want to break down this long-distance trail into something more manageable, we’d recommend the section from Jumping Off Rock to Little Long Mountain, which is a moderately difficult trail that has plenty of campsites for backcountry trips. The trail is largely forested, and ends at the summit of Little Long Mountain, which has stunning views of the nearby mountain. You can even camp close to the summit to catch it at sunrise and watch the entire landscape glow in the morning light.

Photo Credit: Stuart Borrett (Flickr CC)

Fall Mountain Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.8 miles
  • Location: Morrow Mountain State Park

If you’re looking for a wonderful fall hiking trail with lots of photo opportunities, the Fall Mountain Trail at Morrow Mountain State Park is a great option. While there are lots of trails in the Morrow Mountain area, we like Fall Mountain the best for its variety, between mountain views, quiet forest paths, and picturesque sections. Locals love this trail for being extra quiet and peaceful, which is a great choice for weekends to let go of some of the stress of your daily city life.

King’s Pinnacle Trail

  • Trail Length: 3.7 miles
  • Location: Crowders Mountain State Park

No list of hikes near Charlotte would be complete without an ode to King’s Pinnacle Trail, one of the most popular and scenic trails in the entire state. Boasting some of the best views of Crowder’s Mountain State Park, the summit of King’s Pinnacle consists of a rocky outcropping that’s beautiful in its own rite. The trail itself consists of a gradual incline to the top, so it’s great for hikers of all levels who are willing to take on the challenge! Those who do will be rewarded with one of the most iconic hiking views in the area.

NOTE: This is one of the most popular trails on our list, so go early if you want to avoid crowds along the way!

Photo Credit: Jim Liestman (Flickr CC)

Difficult Hikes Near Charlotte

Linville Gorge Wilderness

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Linville Gorge Wilderness

Located near Asheville, the Linville Gorge Wilderness area is a gorgeous place for hiking near Charlotte. There are several trails that weave throughout the region, but the two we’d recommend are Little Table Rock Trail (hard – 2.7 miles) and Hawksbill Mountain (moderate – 1.8 miles). We’d recommend both for experienced hikers, but if you’re looking for an extra challenge and workout, head to Little Table Rock Trail for some seriously steep inclines and rocky terrain. Because both hikes are so short, you could even do both in one day!

Ridgeline Trail

  • Trail Length: 14.7 miles
  • Location: Crowders Mountain and Kings Mountain State Parks

Have you ever wanted to do a hike that extended across two different states? The Ridgeline Trail is your chance! Spanning from Crowders Mountain State Park in North Carolina to Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina, the Ridgeline Trail is one of the most beloved hikes near Charlotte for experienced hikers. The trails take you through forested areas and to some very spectacular views of Crowders Mountain and Kings Mountain. Locals state that this is hands down, one of the best challenging hikes in the state, and is definitely worth the challenge if you’re in the mood to work hard.

Photo Credit: matthew mclalin (Flickr CC)

Chestnut Knob Trail

  • Trail Length: 4.1 miles
  • Location: South Mountains State Park

If it’s views of the tree-covered Blue Ridge Mountains you’re looking for, the Chestnut Knob Trail in South Mountains State Park is a great strenuous hike to tackle. Many of the viewpoints here offer uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountains and forests, which is rare given how many trees there are in North Carolina! You can also catch views along the way of High Shoals Falls, the park’s most well-known waterfall. This trail truly has a little bit of everything, and is a wonderful option for experienced hikers wanting a challenge with many rewards.

Vertical Mile Challenge to Hollow Rock Loop

  • Trail Length: 3.6 miles
  • Location: Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area

Located just one hour from Charlotte, the Vertical Mile Challenge hike in Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area is a solid, strenuous hike to get your blood flowing. While you can hike Hollow Rock Loop on its own, for experienced hikers, we recommend combining both hikes for an extra scenic and challenging adventure. For beautiful views and a hike that you can write home about, the Vertical Mile Challenge & Hollow Rock Loop trail is one of the best hikes near Charlotte.

Chimney Rock State Park

  • Trail Length: Varies
  • Location: Chimney Rock State Park (Lake Lure, NC)

Chimney Rock State Park is one of the most well-known and iconic state parks in the area, and hiking here is nothing short of breathtaking. While there are many different trails and paths you can hike, we’d recommend Party Rock and Exclamation Point for their spectacular views (great names, right?!).

Exclamation Point is a short, moderate hike (less than 1 mile) to a viewpoint where you can see fantastic views of Chimney Rock and the nearby valley. For hikers who want a more strenuous challenge, head to Party Rock (2.3 miles) for absolutely spectacular views of the valley and nearby lakes. Because they’re both short, you can tackle both in one day for an awesome half-day adventure.

Mount Mitchell

  • Trail Length: 11.3 miles
  • Location: Pisgah National Forest

Although it’s over 2.5 hours from Charlotte, we couldn’t resist including the Mount Mitchell trail on our list, which brings hikers up to the highest peak in the state of North Carolina. This trail is NOT for the faint of heart – it’s an 11.3 mile slog up steep, rocky terrain to reach the iconic summit. You’ll ascend a whopping 3,700 feet over just under 6 miles, which will really make you feel your legs! On the plus side, the incline is gradual, which means you won’t experience too much variation in steepness. At the top, you’ll be treated to the most jaw-dropping views in the state, and on clear days, you can see out many, many miles across the mountaintops. For the ultimate North Carolina bragging rights, hit up Mount Mitchell trail and be prepared for an adventure.

Additional Resources for Hiking Near Charlotte, NC

What to Pack

  • Hiking boots – You can’t hike without appropriate footwear, period. For most trails, we recommend an all-purpose waterproof boot with ankle support. We recommend Salomon hiking boots or Keen hiking boots for a comfortable hike.
  • Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these PrAna hiking pants for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers, an insulated puffer jacket, and a waterproof outer shell. And don’t forget a pair of the best hiking socks in the world!
  • Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we recommend throwing them in your car anyway just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond foldable trekking poles, which are lightweight and easy to transport.
  • Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To spare disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask bottles because they keep water cold for hours, but a good old Nalgene works very well too.
  • Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects.
  • A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
  • Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
  • Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend Osprey day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes.

Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? Visit our Complete Day Hiking Packing List for our full list and our top gear recommendations.

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